Thursday, June 07, 2018

UK: Oxbridge's lack of black students a 'staggering' failure, says universities minister

WHY is it important to have blacks at Oxford and Cambridge universities?  Surely what matters is that each student is admitted  on non-discriminatory grounds and is given every opportunity to develop his/her full potential.  Oxford and Cambridge do exactly that. 

If there is evidence of blacks being discriminated against let us hear of it.  But there is none.  As they do worldwide, Africans  in Britain have very poor High school performance.  THAT is why so few meet Oxbridge admission criteria

Oxbridge is Britain's prime location for intellectual excellence.  To degrade it by having racist admission criteria would be a great loss and would prove nothing

The universities minister has attacked Oxbridge for its “staggering” failure to attract more black students, saying that colleges must look beyond exam results to improve diversity.

Sam Gyimah, who was elected as the first black British president of the Oxford Union debating society in 1997, claimed that diversity at Britain’s two oldest universities had scarcely changed from his own student days, as he warned it was time they “stood up to the mark”.

Speaking openly about the issue for the first time, Mr Gyimah said he struggled to understand how Oxford and Cambridge could regularly produce Nobel prize winners but could not “crack the issue of admissions”.


Developing countries lead in education innovation

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said too many schools are operating “very similarly to 100 years ago, and the world today is much different.” She is right, but the secretary might direct Americans to the creative innovation happening abroad.

Sugata Mitra, an education researcher at England’s Newcastle University, is educating poor children using self-organized learning environments (SOLEs), where kids teach each other using technology and collaborative learning.

In 1999, Mitra placed a computer with internet access in a wall in an Indian slum. Within hours, kids gathered in groups to teach each other how to browse and download programs.

Next, Mitra placed computers in rural villages in India and later in Cambodia, Africa, China and South America. Kids became computer literate and improved their English skills using the SOLEs approach.

Mitra discovered that learning, memorization and critical thinking were maximized when four kids collaborated using one computer, even with limited adult intervention. For example, in India, kids only had access to “Granny Clouds,” which allowed British grandmothers to give the kids encouragement and English lessons using webcams.

Mitra introduced SOLEs to a school in Gateshead, England, and found primary school students learned secondary school material. Today, several schools in Georgia, Maryland and Texas have “SOLE sessions.” Mitra’s research challenges the view that learning is maximized when teachers stand in front of a chalkboard lecturing. Students can successfully teach each other.

James Tooley, a professor of education policy at Newcastle University who studies private education in developing countries, has found an abundance of low-cost schools independent of the government that often operate below the radar.

In Patna, India, Tooley identified 1,224 such schools when government records listed only 40. In the poorest area of Hyderabad, 37 percent of schools are small and unregistered, operating successfully without government funding or regulation.

A full 76 percent of schoolchildren in Hyderabad attend independent schools, and they outperform similar students in government schools. Similar results were found in Ghana and Nigeria.

Impressed by what he observed, Tooley founded a chain of 38 low-cost, high-quality independent schools in Ghana, the OMEGA Schools. The daily “pay-as-you-learn” fee is 65 U.S. cents, less than 14 percent of the average daily income in Ghana. (The U.S. equivalent would be $24 per day.) Tooley’s research shows value-for-money is achieved when schools face robust competition and daily accountability, with limited bureaucracy.

Obstacles are in the way of a large-scale adoption of the Mitra/Tooley approach in the United States. Adult supervision of students is often required by law, and government-school teachers must be certified. And given the power of teacher unions, politicians typically oppose any reduction in the role of teachers or "educrats."

Even though government schools have serious flaws, many parents are reluctant to gamble on new learning models. On the other hand, American parents can overcome the obstacles to innovation.

In low-income neighborhoods, where schools are often dangerous and ineffective, parents want new options. As proof, 70 percent of low-income voters support school vouchers. The learning models proposed by Mitra and Tooley are not for everyone, but parents fed up with failing government schools would likely jump at more choices. Other parents would follow with demonstrated success.

Through private funding, schools can escape much government red tape, which stifles innovation and increases costs. Education entrepreneurs and investors need to start low-cost independent schools, letting “a million schools bloom.”

In contrast, American politicians suffocate choice and competition: The number of public school districts plummeted from 119,001 in 1937 to 13,588 in 2011.

A boom of low-cost independent schools could be paid for through education savings accounts (ESAs), privately funded tax-credit scholarships, 529 Savings Plans and tax-funded vouchers.

The Acton Academy is a franchise model that is consistent with the Mitra/Tooley approach, as is today’s homeschool model, which features decentralization, personalized curriculum, student collaboration, integrated technology,and fewer government rules. Homeschooled kids test better than kids in government schools.

Old-line government schools are failing many children, especially in low-income neighborhoods. Yet in some of the world’s poorest places, people find innovative ways of helping themselves by nurturing high-quality, decentralized, low-cost independent schools, featuring tech-infused student collaboration. Entrepreneurs could revolutionize U.S. education by rapidly scaling up this approach.


Australian National University ‘gutless’ to reject study of Western civ., says another university boss

The Australian National University’s reluctance to host a ­pro­posed Western civilisation course is “the greatest act of gutlessness since Trevor Chappell bowled under­arm to New Zealand”, says Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven.

“This whole exercise is not a protection of academic freedom,” Professor Craven added, referring to ANU’s rejection last week of the Western civilisation program proposed by the Ramsay Centre, chaired by former prime minister John Howard.

“It’s one of the greatest failures of academic freedom in Australian university history … What’s happening here is not an attempt to protect a diverse range of studies and views around civilisation, but to make sure one particular view, as far as possible, is kept ruthlessly out of the university.”

The ANU was in negotiation with the centre until last week when discussions regarding academic freedoms broke down.

Yesterday, federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham let fly at unions and activist students for using “fear and negativity” to shut down debate on the plan, saying he hoped another university would take up the offer. “I hope they (the universities) stare down the fear and negativity that the likes of the (National Tertiary Education Union) or various student unions engage in from time to time and recognise that academic freedom and free academic inquiry should extend across all disciplines,” he said.

It has emerged the Ramsay Centre approached other universities about the Western civilisation program, but none agreed to take it on. “Melbourne is one among many Australian universities approached by the Ramsey Centre,” said University of Melbourne acting vice-chancellor Mark Considine. He said it appre­ciated the opportunity but had not submitted an expression of interest.

The University of Sydney confirmed an approach by the Ramsay Centre. “However, the University of Sydney needs to make its own assessment of the opportunities and risks independent of the current noise,” it said.

Macquarie University said it met the Ramsay Centre last year “for initial talks on potential collaborations”. None was pursued.

Professor Craven declined to say whether the Ramsay Centre had approached the ACU: “Of course we’d look at a program like Ramsay, and I would have a lot more confidence in the ­robustness of our own academic processes than ANU apparently has in theirs.”

He said the ANU’s rejection of the Ramsay proposal should not be seen as a protection of university processes and independence.

“It is a complete misconception that universities do not continually have discussions with partners outside the university about everything from research to teaching to courses, for the purpose of designing something that meets needs and intellectual imperatives,” he said.

“I hate to break the news to people, but take for example linkage research projects with industry … Does anyone seriously believe that the two partners do not discuss what the research looks like and what its outcomes are going to be and where it’s going to go, so that it is literally acceptable and beneficial?

“I think what’s happened is a group of people wish to preclude particular academic perspectives and have tried to do so under the false flag of academic freedom and due academic process.”

Professor Craven said it was “astonishing” that while a centre for Western civilisation had been deemed inconsistent with academic freedom, six universities host Confucius centres, which some observers say are under Chinese government control and used to disseminate pro-China propaganda .

“I think this is really a bit of a defining moment for Australian universities,” he said.

Ramsay Centre director professor Simon Haines condemned the tenor of the debate. “Some of the recent media comment, from both ends of the political spectrum, has been deplorable,” he said, labelling the treatment of some academics “unacceptable”.


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